I think it’s probably obvious to you by now, that in me, you’ve got a compassionate nerd on your hands.
Joke aside, I am a deep thinker who has always asked big and activating questions — of myself and others.
I geek out on understanding the core reason things are the way they are – on an individual as well as systemic level.
Why? And How? Are questions that essentially drive my life and my business.
My obsession with understanding how things work led me to become a researcher and eventually, a consultant.
My passion for powerful questions and how they move personal as well as organisational and societal growth, led me to become a transformational coach.
When I combine the researcher, the consultant and the coach in me, what you get is a change agent – one that seeks to bring head and heart together for the purpose of making a positive contribution to the world.
I believe that our future depends on us all combining HEAD and HEART.
Logic and Love.
Analysis and Authenticity.
Innovation and Integrity.
Congruence and Compassion.
The most significant practice we bring head and heart together in, is the practice of REFLECTION.
Reflection is a key concept within philosophy, as well as learning theory, psychology and sociology.
The concept of reflection as a process for personal learning was first described by the American sociologist, psychologist and educational reformer John Dewey, who was a firm believer in democracy and upheld that reflection is the defining quality of a fruitful, creative mind.
Dewey wrote the book “How we think” in the early 1900s, and suggested that “reflective thought is our single most potent antidote to erroneous beliefs” (e.g. misconception).
I have come to know REFLECTION as one of the most powerful practices and life skills there are, because it helps us with the process of meaning making.
It enables us to make sense of something – to see the bigger picture as well as the details – whilst give deeper wisdom in any given situation.
And as such, it can help us let go of things that distract us, keep us stuck or weigh us down, and help us focus on the things that matter.
Reflection is key to having a meaningful relationship with ourselves, others, our livelihood and life itself.
It’s also what enables us as change makers to move with intention, clarity and integrity towards our thriving life and legacy.
When you hear me talk about ‘legacy’, what I am referring to is your impact on the world.
The ripple effects of the actions, thoughts and energy you give out, consciously or unconsciously.
The difference you are here to make.
To people and the planet.
Reflection isn’t always comfortable, and that’s because it helps us identify where there is room for learning, unlearning, better plans or stronger foundations, so that we can grow and become even more conscious, even more aware, even better at discerning the truth of how we are actually showing up in life, and in our service.
On my travels with reflection as an entrepreneur over the past 16 years, I have come to identify 4 key areas where reflection is absolutely key to our progress, key to our impact and income with integrity.
The 4 key areas are:
1. Reflect on the world around us
As change makers we naturally reflect on the world around us. But the key is to do it with intention. When we reflect with intention upon the world around us, we will spot the gaps: where we can see that something isn’t working optimally, where things are not adding up, where people or the planet aren’t thriving as they could or have the potential to.
Based on what we observe, we dedicate ourselves to finding solutions to these gaps in alignment with our values and what we feel passionate about.
2. Reflect on the purpose/ intention with our business or project
This may seem like an obvious reflection point, but believe me, as a guide to change maker entrepreneurs – it isn’t! You see, we may have great ideas and a big vision, but unless we can translate these ideas into tangible outcomes, a powerful message and a clearly defined client or audience, we will not be able to create concrete solutions or offers that make a difference. Furthermore, our intention needs to be something that truly lights us up and makes us feel passionate, because without this fire, we will stop and stall when the going gets tough.
In Wish Tree, we describe this process of tuning into our ‘why’, our ‘what’ and our ‘who’, as a journey of “Getting Trued Up”.
Without this clarity from both head and heart, we won’t last as change makers or entrepreneurs.
[If this is something you want help with, sign up to our mailing list to receive information about when we are offering this programme next]
3. Reflect on our leadership
As change makers, we are leaders by default, no matter if this is how we see ourselves or not.
Self-defining as a change maker, means we take it upon us to reflect upon how we are showing up in the world – as a human being, as an entrepreneur, as an agent for change on the planet.
Our first responsibility is to ourselves, by ensuring that whatever service or business we are creating, we are doing it from strong inner and outer foundations.
Inner foundations are about our knowing our values, sense of purpose, defining a clear message. It’s also about our sense of being enough as we are, whilst adopting a growth mindset (e.g. the approach that we are in constant development and learning). It’s about developing a sense of confidence so that we can lead and serve with conviction.
Outer foundations for our project or business are about the how of our business: the structures, strategies and operations of our work, our business model and how, tangibly, we serve people.
Reflection on our leadership means that we ask ourselves the essential questions: To what extent is my business or project permeated by my values? How clear is it to my clients or audience or collaborators what my values are? Where am I not being the change? That is, where am I not walking my talk?
For example, if we claim that we are a business or service that is serious about being open and inclusive (perhaps even that ‘all are welcome’) then we won’t leave that to chance, simply by thinking that ‘we are nice people’.
We understand that if we want to be open and inclusive, we need a diversity statement clearly displayed on our website or in our Facebook group. We understand that we need to educate ourselves on how to serve people from different backgrounds and cultures, and make our products and services accessible for people with varying needs and abilities, including neurodiversity.
It means that we understand that we need to educate ourselves on the lived experience of our clients and customers and make sure that our mindset is one of inclusion and empathy, rather than normative and restrictive. Otherwise, we will unintentionally cause harm rather than contribute to a thriving legacy, no matter how good our intentions are.
If we claim that our values are love or peace for example (which many change makers do) well, then we understand that our project or business need to be vocal about human rights, as there can be no love without equality, not peace without justice.
And, if we have a strong value around Nature (another popular value amongst change makers). then it follows that our business models and practises must be both sustainable and restorative.
Reflection on our leadership is about contemplation, introspection, and identifying where we are in comparison to where we want to be, or what we declare about ourselves, and is essential if we are to show up with integrity and make any positive impact at all.
4. Reflect on our impact
It is one thing to Get Trued Up and become clear on the difference we want to make in the world – another is to actually do it.
None of us are able to translate and live our vision in practise without support.
That’s why in our upcoming re-launch of Wish Tree, we will be offering change makers from all over the world, the opportunity to receive support, inside-out, in our Conscious Entrepreneur Collective.
[If this speaks to you, add yourself to our mailing-list so you don’t miss out on launch dates!].
Reflecting upon our impact, means asking the questions: Is my business or project making the difference it intends to? What does that difference look like? And to whom?
and then using this information as a basis to create new strategies, reach out for specific support and invest in business tools and training.
In my past, I used to help organisations – public and corporate – to reflect on and measure their impact on an ongoing basis.
Not only did this reflective practise help these organisations to serve with integrity, but it gave them valuable insights around where they were all talk and little action, or where they simply didn’t have enough information about their target audience or client group, or enough knowledge or experience to serve them well.
Where they discovered that they were, in fact, doing what they set out to do, that is – making a tangible difference to people and the planet in alignment with their values and mission – they spoke about just how much their sense of purpose and passion for their work had been fuelled, through this key piece of reflection.
They also reported that they felt closer to the people they were serving, as a result.
And in turn, customers or audiences felt both seen and heard and that they mattered, through the process of being invited to reflect on what they were getting out of their relationship to the organisation or how the project or service had changed their lives.
If we are serious about becoming Conscious Entrepreneurs, and truly embody the identity of a change maker, reflection will involve all 4 of these reflection practises above.
Now this type of wholistic reflection takes courage.
Because the whole intention with it is to identify gaps.
Where there is an opportunity for growth.
Where intention and reality are not matching.
Reflection is about looking at ourselves in the mirror.
And looking at ourselves in the mirror is vulnerable, if we haven’t accepted ourselves as we are.
So no matter how amazing or beneficial we claim reflection to be, embracing reflection is not a given – far from it.
It is often secretly feared, or labelled a ‘luxury’, and therefore under-prioritised.
If we have internalised shame around not being enough as we are, we will be holding on to perfectionism, which in turn comes from a fear of rejection.
When we are driven by perfectionism we don’t want to reflect.
We might think that a perfectionist wants to ‘improve’ – right? but in my work on the ground with hundreds of leaders, staff members and entrepreneurs, my experience is the opposite.
The perfectionist doesn’t want to look at where they are ‘not perfect’, because it activates their fear of not being worthy of love and belonging.
What the perfectionist can’t see when invited to reflect, is that reflection isn’t the same as scrutinising or judging.
Reflection isn’t about good or bad.
Black or white.
It’s about how, and why.
At first glance, reflection may seem like an intellectual activity, but in practise it is not.
It’s vulnerable and real, which leads to greater authenticity and relationships heart to heart.
That’s why I sometimes talk about our reflection practise being a bit like an intimate date with ourselves, and sometimes that date will include our clients, customers, participants, collaborators or audience too.
It helps us to know ourselves better, grow ourselves better and orientate ourselves in and with the world around us.
And the more we have come to understand that we are – and that our business or project is imperfect too – in fact, always work in progress, the more we will embrace reflection.
We will come to see it as an amazing opportunity to help ourselves see more clearly what needs shifting, so that we can move forward, without confusion, towards our thriving life and legacy.
Quite frankly, the power of reflection is so great that it helps us to live and lead, serve and do business, more truthfully.
As such, it also helps us to grow more effectively.
Because when our growth is reflection- driven, we grow with intention, continuously.
As a result, we become more mindful, more aware, and more conscious of our actions and choices – our decisions, and why and where we must place our focus.
And that is, the very meaning of Conscious Entrepreneurship.
For a new era of doing business, with both head and heart.
Emily Johnsson is a thought leader, agent for change and mentor at Wish Tree. She’s the founder of the Time to Shine community, the Intimacy for Success model, and the Wish Tree Academy for change makers – space holders, social innovators, creatives and leaders – all over the world, who want to serve people and the planet through conscious entrepreneurship. She is passionate about humanity, our planet, peace and trees.
Emily has a background in the history of ideas, science communication and learning research, and in her past, worked as an international strategic advisor and facilitator of change in both the public, corporate and not-for-profit sectors. Emily has always had a passion for synthesising ideas and looking at best practise. To her work she brings both heart and mind, intuition and analytical thinking combined.